- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

The Washington Redskins met yesterday with University of Tennessee defensive tackle John Henderson, the first potential draftee to visit Redskin Park this season.

Henderson won the Outland Trophy in 2000 but slumped somewhat as a senior. He was projected as a top-10 pick if he had left school as a junior but now, with several fellow defensive tackles rising in draft projections, there is an outside chance he could fall to Washington at No.18 overall.

Injuries played a key role in his disappointing performance in 2001, and concerns about his back now mean he might be selected last among the consensus four top defensive tackles in the draft. The others are Tennessee teammate Albert Haynesworth, North Carolina's Ryan Sims and Wisconsin's Wendell Bryant.

Washington brought in Henderson to give him a physical and further evaluate his personality. The club plans to invite six to 10 potential draftees overall, well short of the 20 allowed by the NFL. Henderson was not available for comment as he left Redskin Park.

The Redskins also got an up-close look at Henderson and Haynesworth last month when several coaches including Steve Spurrier, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and line coach Rickey Hunley attended Tennessee's pro day.

Defensive tackle is one of two starting positions vacant for the Redskins as the April 20-21 NFL Draft approaches. The other is guard, where the club might have a better chance of grabbing one of the top-rated prospects. Washington appears interested in Nebraska's Toniu Fonoti, the most highly touted guard, as well as Colorado's Andre Gurode and Auburn's Kendall Simmons.

Most draft projections have the top four defensive tackles off the board by Washington's first pick. There is some speculation that the next best tackles, including Notre Dame's Anthony Weaver, Alabama-Birmingham's Eddie Freeman and Washington's Larry Tripplett, are either overrated or not capable of being every-down players.

The Redskins also are expected to focus on wide receiver and safety in the draft. Two of Spurrier's old Florida receivers, Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell, are pegged for the first round, while several standout safeties might be selected in the second. Washington's second pick is 52nd overall.

The Redskins continue to eye free agency to fill the vacancies at defensive tackle and guard. Defensive tackle Brandon Mitchell is a candidate to join the team, particularly now that Steve Mitchell has signed with the New England Patriots. The Redskins are talking to guard Bob Hallen, and there have been preliminary conversations with guard Heath Irwin.

The Redskins also are talking to two potential backup running backs, Ki-Jana Carter and Dorsey Levens. Carter performed well as Stephen Davis' backup last season.

However, the Redskins and other clubs are slowing pursuit of free agents as the draft nears. There is expected to be a relative surge in veteran signings after the draft, when clubs can see precisely what needs remain.

Meanwhile, special teams coach Mike Stock reportedly will visit Michigan State on Wednesday to work out long snapper Tony Grant. The Redskins are expected to release veteran Ethan Albright once they draft or sign a replacement.

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